Battlestar Galactica Hands-On

We check out a near-finished version of this TV show-inspired shooter from Sierra Online.

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Battlestar Galactica (2007)
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Currently in development at Australia-based Auran, Battlestar Galactica is a shooter based on the TV show remake of the same name. Each of the game's 10 levels--with the exception of the "Boot Camp" tutorial--will be based on a specific episode from one of the show's first three seasons. There will also be a handful of online multiplayer modes in which you can pit your skills against those of other pilots. Our recent meeting with Sierra Online wasn't our first opportunity to play Battlestar Galactica, but we saw plenty of stuff on this occasion that wasn't at the E3 Media & Business Summit earlier this year.

Each of the ten levels in BSG will be based on episodes from the SciFi channel show.
Each of the ten levels in BSG will be based on episodes from the SciFi channel show.

The first level we were invited to play through was titled 33 and based on the season one episode of the same name. The premise of that episode is that the human fleet needs to make a faster-than-light jump every 33 minutes to stay ahead of the Cylon forces that are in pursuit. Your mission is simply to fly around in your Viper Mk II to protect the fleet from the Cylons, who are attacking in raider ships and nuke-equipped heavy raiders. The onscreen radar shows you the locations of Cylon ships at all times, and the heavy raiders that you need to target first are highlighted accordingly.

Battlestar Galactica's visuals do a great job of giving the appearance of a huge 3D battlefield in space, but in reality, you're really only flying around on one plane. Your arsenal, regardless of which of the eight (four for each faction) ships you're flying in, will include an unlimited supply of kinetic-energy-weapon ammo and rockets. Special weapons can also be picked up during missions, though their effects vary according to which ship you're piloting.

The only Cylon ships we're certain that you'll be able to fly are the aforementioned raiders and heavy raiders. But it seems reasonable to assume that their four ships will offer much the same performance options as their human equivalents, and we're pleased to report that we got to see all of those in action during our session. The Viper Mk II, which you might remember from the original 1970's version of Battlestar Galactica, is a real warhorse. Although it's not nearly as quick as some of the more modern ships, its powerful weapons ensure that it can hold its own. The newer Viper Mk VII ships sacrifice some armor and weapon strength in favor of speed and maneuverability. The Blackbird ships can employ Star Trek-style cloaking devices to make them invisible to enemies for a short time. The slow-moving but extremely well-armored Raptors are deadly in close combat and equipped with superior radar equipment.

Your ship will be chosen for you before each mission, and it looks like you'll have logged plenty of time behind the controls of each of them by the time you've played through all 10 levels. For example, the "Roast the Hotdog" level that we played saw us climbing out of our Viper Mk II and into a Viper Mk VII to take part in a Top Gun-style competition against other human pilots. The main difference between this level and others in the game--other than the fact that you're fighting against other humans--is that when you're hit, you'll be stunned for a short time rather than killed.

The last level that we played, which will take place roughly halfway through the single-player game, was titled Fratricide and will see you taking the controls of a captured Cylon raider. The mission takes place behind enemy lines and tasks you with taking down a number of Cylon ships within a time limit. The twist is that because you're in a Cylon ship, none of the enemies will fire on you unless you attack them first or they see you attacking one of their ships. You'll be massively outnumbered, so the trick will be to pick off individual or small groups of enemies who have strayed from the crowd.

We didn't get to check out any of Battlestar Galactica's multiplayer content on this occasion, but we can confirm that the game will offer deathmatch, team deathmatch, and domination modes of play for up to eight players on Xbox Live, as well as 16 players on the PC. The domination mode is perhaps the most interesting because it'll task two opposing teams with capturing weapons platforms that, once they're under one team's control, will start firing at the opposing team's base.

Battlestar Galactica is currently scheduled for release toward the end of October. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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